I don’t know that I’ve ever posted about Martin Luther King Jr. Day before because I feel that I’m better off listening. Spend a little time doing that and you’ll hear endless examples of how racism is still prevalent at both micro and macro levels, and even if we magically removed it today, the effects would carry on for generations.
Dr. King’s taught that we should treat everyone equally. I know that many of you, like me, are Christians, so this shouldn’t be a new message to us:
- “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34
- “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
- “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39
- Fifth commandment: You shall not murder. What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.
Loving everyone equally isn’t a new message, but looking around the world today, it’s clear that we all need to be reminded of this frequently. It extends far beyond racism. Compare two minutes of any news channel with Ephesians 4:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
It’s so easy for us to slip into using divisive phrases that group people into “us” and “them” and then it’s easy to start degrading “them”. Whether your side likes words like birther, Trumpster, and misogynist, or if your side uses commie, libtard, and “Let’s go Brandon”, none of that comes close to “building others up according to their needs.” Check out Martin Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment:
We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
I don’t want to detract from the reason that we remember MLK’s work today and the work that still remains, but in addition, it’s a good time to think about how I can do a better job of treating everyone the same: we’re all sinners in need of a savior. I need to reflect God’s love back into the world, and if I can focus on that, I’ll not only do a better job fulfilling MLK’s dream, but I’ll help point a lot more people to Jesus.
I recently read (but can’t remember where) an article about willpower vs habits. Willpower is like a battery that gets used up and recharged each night. You have to be careful how and where you apply your willpower because you probably won’t have enough to get you through the day. Habits happen mindlessly or with much less effort. So if you’re looking to make a change, you need to intentionally apply your willpower to get an activity to the point of being a habit.
Apps are frequently built to get you into a habit quickly. Games on my phone are always encouraging me to play just one more round or telling me to log in every x hours to get the next reward. But apps can use this type of incentive for good too. I started learning Duo Lingo about 16 months ago and in the beginning, I frequently relied on the app’s notifications to remind me that I hadn’t done my lesson for the day yet. It keeps track of the number of consecutive days you’ve practice, the number of lessons you’ve done compared to other people, the number of hours you spent practicing in a week, etc. So not only is that app encouraging me to keep my daily streak alive, but it’s also measuring my progress. For me, that measurement piece is a big key to building a habit.
So all that got me to thinking about some things I wanted to change in my life and how I could use my willpower battery and statistics to build a habit. I decided to use my sore back as a test case. I have spent a lot of time in physical therapy to help with my back, but I only keep up with my exercises after I’ve hurt my back. I should be doing them all the time and avoid losing a week here and there to back pain. There are a thousand different habit tracker apps out there, but the first one I downloaded was called Loop Habit Tracker. It gives me the satisfaction of making a checkmark for each day that I do my back stretches, giving me stats about how many days I’ve done it, and reminding me if I haven’t done it yet. I’m over a week in and already I can feel those exercises using up less of my willpower each day.
One of my favorite quotes is from a French mountain climber named Gaston Rebuffat who said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” I’ve had a goal of getting better about doing those basic exercises, but I never had a plan to build the habit. Hopefully as I get the habit formed, I’ll be able to keep it going easily and then work on using my willpower to improve other areas.